I’ll forever remember the sound of my heart bursting as I crested the hill. Women dancing colorful, moving as flames flickering in the wind, singing praise in their outside voices, beating thanks on their hollowed gourds, their open arms welcoming, inviting. “Come!” Some of our group entered the celebration, tipping first their faces to the sky, then down and back again. Others of us held back, as if standing behind an invisible veil, tears streaming solid.
Testimony after testimony spilled into the desert air outside Jos that day. Resolute and graceful, the Mashiah women took turns at the front of the awning. Their faces, worn but somehow softened, lifted heavenward with an assurance that comes from surviving storms that bend you low.
Ravaged by the affects of AIDS, these lives once spoke only sorrow.
Their stories now flow full of Jesus. He rescued them from the city streets.
Can you see Him?
For them, He lives. Because of Him, they live.
I call them Gloria. I call all the women I met in Nigeria that ’07 spring Gloria. Their unexpected, life-giving ways helped me breathe a little deeper, stand a little taller, linger a little longer in the breath of my Beloved.
Never have I met anyone so grateful for restoration as these women. Worship erupts. They pour themselves out from the overflow of their hearts to others in need — even one such as me.
As I sat with our ministry team in the heat of that Nigerian morning, my spirit wept. Not out of pity, or even grief. But release. Release to dance in the same freedom from which these women ministered life.
Unencumbered. Pure. Without pretense or notion of fame.
That’s the power of grace, passed on from what we’re given.
Life-giving. Beautiful. Spontaneous.
May I tell you something? When I think of how I want people to see me, I see Gloria. I see her in all her unmasked glory—hands raised, heart freed, released to respond, called into community where grace embraces death and joy brings forth life.
Before leaving Nigeria that April, the seed God planted began to germinate in me and found light necessary for life. The barrenness I had been feeling in my spirit through seasons of darkness, soon gave way to new life. A few short months later, I left my editor’s desk in Cincinnati to step into the dance of freedom and availability to respond.
If not for Gloria’s unexpected, life-giving ways, I may never have known the gift of life pulsing beneath the barren landscape of my heart. Life to live, life to give.
Friends, if you’re struggling through a season of barrenness, I pray for you the gift of a Gloria. Someone to show you Jesus and set your heart free—free to live life; free to give life.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
Click to hear the joyful sound of Women of Hope singing Ni zan bi Yesu-I follow Christ . To learn more about these life-giving women or the ministry of Mary Beth and Bayo Oyebade, visit The Mashiah Foundation.
Oh, Robin….your beautiful expression felt like the joy of a purposeful walk through satin-like stirring waters…. Could you say more about the barrenness you mention? I’m not sure I quite connected with you there. Thank you, dear friend:)
Karen, thank you for joining me in those waters. Your question about barrenness caused me to go back. I hadn’t fleshed that out. I made a comment to a friend and fellow writer yesterday that sometimes it feels like I only scratched the surface of the impact an experience has on me. Any attempt to draw it up into a neat package to give someone to read seems lame, or at the least, inadequate.
I felt / feel that way about the life Christ bore in me out of my barren / lifeless heart during my time in Nigeria. Barrenness is a picture of starkness, life that had seemingly fallen away to leave behind the winter tree. Dead? Perhaps. But perhaps not. I had been digging and scraping to find life. The women I call Gloria helped me release the new life I found under the barren field / the stark winter tree.
This image is vivid for me because of my physical barrenness — inability to bear children / my empty womb. I stood on the stage for three women’s conferences in Nigeria that spring to speak life to hundreds of women—some who were being beaten because they could not bear their husband a son. Others had taken a role as slave in their husband’s household while he took a new wife who would give him the son society said was his right. The Lord gave me words of comfort and encouragement. I began with “The Lord hears your prayer: open my womb. He’s also heard mine. I have no womb to open, yet he’s called me to give life. To you. Right now. Today. . . . We aren’t all born to bear life, but we are all born to give it. (I edited the original post for clarity, recognizing where I hung up. I’ll write more about the barrenness as I go, attempting to help show how we women are called to be life-givers.)
You, Karen, are for me, a life-giver. Thank you!
I will never tire of this story. So real. So powerful. It moves in and around my spirit breathing new life. Thank you.
Laura, you always affirm. Specifically, powerfully. Thank you! The new life being raised up in you is beautiful!